Chapter VIII.—Arrival of Constantius at Rome. A Council held in Italy. Account of what happened to Athanasius the Great through the Machinations of the Arians.
On the death of the tyrants, 1299 Constantius anticipated the restoration of peace and cessation of tumults, and quitted Sirmium in order to return to ancient Rome, and to enjoy the honor of a triumph after his victory over the tyrants. He likewise intended to bring the Eastern and the Western bishops, if possible, to one mind concerning doctrine, by convening a council in Italy. Julius died about this period, after having governed the church of Rome during twenty-five years; 1300 and Liberius succeeded him. Those who were opposed to the doctrines of the Nicæan council thought this a favorable opportunity to calumniate the bishops whom they had deposed, and to procure their ejection from the church as abettors of false doctrine, and as disturbers of the public peace; and to accuse them of having sought, during the life of Constans, to excite a misunderstanding between the emperors; and it was true, as we related above, 1301 that Constans menaced his brother with war unless he would consent to receive the orthodox bishops. Their efforts were principally directed against Athanasius, towards whom they entertained so great an aversion that, even when he was protected by Constans, and enjoyed the friendship of Constantius, they could not conceal their enmity. Narcissus, bishop of Cilicia, Theodore, bishop of Thrace, Eugenius, bishop of Nicæa, Patrophilus, bishop of Scythopolis, Menophantes, bishop of Ephesus, and other bishops, to the number of thirty, assembled themselves in Antioch, 1302 and wrote a letter to all the bishops of every region, in which they stated that Athanasius had returned to his bishopric in violation of the rules of the Church, that he had not justified himself in any council, and that he was only supported by some of his own faction; and they exhorted them not to hold communion with him, nor to write to him, but to enter into communion with George, who had been ordained to succeed him. Athanasius only contemned these proceedings; but he was about to undergo greater trials than any he had yet experienced. Immediately on the death of Magnentius, and as soon as Constantius found himself sole master of the Roman Empire, he directed all his efforts to induce the bishops of the West to admit that the Son is of like substance with the Father. In carrying out this scheme, however, he did not, in the first place, resort to compulsion, but endeavored by persuasion to obtain the concurrence of the other bishops in the decrees of the Eastern bishops against Athanasius; for he thought that if he could p. 305 bring them to be of one mind on this point, it would be easy for him to regulate aright the affairs connected with religion.
Sozomen is mistaken in saying twenty-five years; he was bishop from a.d. 337–352, fifteen years; this error is due to his earlier confusion of Julius and Silvester.304:1301
See above, iii. 20.304:1302
Sozomen is the only historian who makes mention of this Synod at Antioch in Syria; probably from Sabinus.